Tag Archives: loudspeakers

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Vanishing sound

One of the more ironic tasks in HiFi is to make the speakers disappear. Quite a feat of magic for big boxes dominating the room.

Yeat, difficult or not, that’s exactly what we want to do.

One of the easiest ways to tell if you’re system is working correctly is to close your eyes and see if you can point to the playing loudspeakers. You shouldn’t be able to pinpoint the source of sound.

Getting this right can often be challenging, especially when you don’t use much toe in (as I often recommend).

The fixes for non-disappearing speakers are often a mix of room treatment, proper electronics, and setup.

I would always start in the reverse order from which I just listed. Setup can often make invisible the speakers right in front of you.

If it takes a change of cables or stereo equipment because of harshness or colorations that focus attention on the source of sound, that becomes a more difficult task.

Whatever the case, working towards achieving vanishing sound certainly has its rewards.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

PS Audio is a pretty amazing company. They build all sorts of power re-generators, stereo amplifiers,  stereo preamplifiers, DAC’s and now, loudspeakers and do it all in the USA. They also make high resolution recordings, which they release in all sorts of formats, including LP’s.  Paul is the ultimate audio nerd and I say that in a good way. I have a lot of respect for his passion.

Cat’s out of the bag

In case you have yet to see the latest issue of Stereophile Magazine, I wouldn’t want you to be the last on the block to know what’s going on.

In that latest issue is a two-page color spread showing for the very first time our long-awaited FR-30 loudspeaker.

At 60″ tall it’s not as big as the IRSV it’s pictured in front of, but it’s not small either. The FR-30 features 4 custom designed ultra low distortion long throw 8″ woofers supplemented by 4 10″ side-mounted passive low-frequency radiators. Ribbon tweeter front and back and a 10″ ribbon midrange. No internal amplification, this speaker will light up the room with as few as 100 watts per channel.

It’s been a long time coming. To my eyes and those of the few that have been lucky enough to see them, they’re are a thing of beauty.

Hopefully you can make it to RMAF this year to hear them (and hopefully RMAF actually happens!)

And sonically? Hang on to your hats my friends. Hang on to your hats.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Ancient extremes

I find it ironic that at the end of our audio chain lies some really ancient technology based primarily on magnetism.

Loudspeakers, with few exceptions, are moving coils of wire in magnetic fields: technology invented hundreds of years ago by names like Michael Faraday, Nikola Tesla, and Thomas Edison.

The system that powers those ancient technology speakers is state-of-the-art: microscopic bits of silicone.

Of course, there are exceptions: electrostatic speakers, and the rare ionized gas oddities, but for the most part, we’re using magnets and copper to move air.

This effective blend of old and new is fascinating to me.

Perhaps it’s accurate to suggest it’s on occasion difficult to improve on a good idea.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Not sure about this.

In the center

When I look at the wonderful collection of system photos from our HiFi Family photo album, the one thing I notice is that most people place their electronics stack between the speakers.

I too do this when at a tradeshow, but almost never do this in my personal or reference system if I can help it. In fact, for many years, almost no one would consider placing their electronics in the center of the front wall and between the speakers.

Before there were remote controls, it would have been a real pain in the keester to have to jump up and down to change volume levels for each track.

I understand most folks don’t have the luxury of extra real estate to be able to put their electronic stack to the side, and some are anxious to keep their cable lengths short, but I am guessing there’s also another reason.

We like to see the stereo equipment when music’s playing. After all, most of us own some pretty cool looking gear.

So here’s the thing. My recommendation is to keep the equipment stack—or anything for that matter—out from between the loudspeakers. Equipment racks, tables, televisions, all wreak some level of sonic havoc.

It’s not always easy nor convenient, but if you can manage, put the shelf-full of kit off to the side.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

PS Audio is a real company, wile many high end audio companies are not, so PS Audio uses a pretty standard pricing model, while others, get what they can and often times a lot better margins on what they sell, if they can make a market for their stereo products.

Pricing models

As of late, there’s been some discussion on the forums about the model we use for product pricing.

From what I can ascertain, the general view seems to be companies have a complex pricing model based on a combination of what they believe the market will bear and what it takes to cover all their R and D and tooling costs. At some level, this pricing model surely exists, else how do we wind up with half-million-dollar loudspeakers or $50K audio cables?

When it comes to the mainstream companies I think the truth is somewhat simpler.

My guess is we’re all pretty much the same: a simple multiple of what each product costs to manufacture. The multiples vary depending on the expected number of units to be sold and what the sales volume of the company is.

At the end of the proverbial day, companies have to charge enough to cover expenses.

For most companies like PS Audio, pricing is based entirely on what it costs us to build your products.

Simple works best.

 

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Little speakers and big rooms

There seems a common misconception that big rooms need big loudspeakers.

The truth can be very different.

Aesthetically there’s no doubt a small pair of stand-mounted bookshelf speakers may not fit a large room’s vibe, but from a sonic standpoint, it really shouldn’t matter.

The size of woofer and box determines the speaker’s low end, not how loudly it plays in a room.

A 6.5″ woofer married to a 1″ tweeter in a small box plays at about the same loudness as the same driver complement in a floor-standing enclosure. The floor stander has more internal volume from which the woofer can relax more and go deeper, but chances are good it won’t play any louder.

One benefit of a bigger box is room for more drivers. It’s much easier to build a 3-way or 4-way speaker when you have the available real estate.

And its shape and size may be more aesthetically pleasing in a large room.

If you’re not too concerned with the look, then a small speaker in a big room works just fine.

(And there’s always the possibility of sneaking a couple of subwoofers in the room to augment the smaller woofer)

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Can work either way..

Subwoofer connections

For more than three decades I have strongly advocated the high-level connection of subwoofers—where we connect the output of the power amplifier to the input of the subwoofer.

What amazes me is that still to this day, that viewpoint is considered radical.

The vast majority of subwoofer manufacturers would have you connecting their subwoofers through low-level inputs as supplied by your preamplifier. Their reasoning is simple. The output of a preamplifier is cleaner and more direct than what happens after a power amplifier has processed it.

My good friend, John Hunter of REL subs is one of the few subwoofer manufacturers agreeing with me.

And here’s the thing. The majority of subwoofer manufacturers are correct. There’s no argument that the output of the preamplifier is cleaner, purer, and more direct than the output of a power amplifier.

So why the debate?

Because they are missing the point. Subwoofers should not stand out in the system. The whole point of a subwoofer is to augment the performance of the main loudspeakers. We don’t want to hear the subwoofer. We want to pretend as if it were a perfect appendage to the main speakers. To make that happen we need to do whatever we can to get closer to matching the sound of the main speakers—a perfect pairing.

We want the characteristics of the power amp to color the output of our subwoofer in an effort to more closely integrate it.

Hope that helps.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

I’ve owned just about them all, including horn loudspeakers, Quad 57 electrostat’s, Eminent Technologies planar magnetic hybrids and dynamic speakers,. At the present time, I use a pair of Daedalus Ulysses speakers in my all music system and a pair of custom Horn speakers for my Home Theater system, which I designed the cabinet for and had built locally. They are excellent and feature a Great Plains Audio Altec 604e driver and their crossover, which has upgraded parts. Both systems have two subwoofers and are incredible sounding and that’s not just my opinion.

I’ve also tried all sorts of different tube and solid state amps, both separates and integrated amps. However, I haven’t yet tried omni directional loudspeakers, so  maybe changes aren’t over yet.

Pigeonholed

One of my readers reminded me that I don’t like either electrostat’s or vacuum tube output stages.

Funny thing is, it isn’t true.

There was a period in my life where all I listened to was through electrostatic loudspeaker powered by vacuum tubes.

I moved away from electrostat’s because I missed dynamics.

I moved away from vacuum tube output stages because I missed the control afforded by high damping factor amps.

But just because I moved on doesn’t mean that at the time I wasn’t in love with what I had.

In each phase of our development, we define ourselves by where we are in time.

And then that changes.

It’s the tradeoffs in life that define where we are at the moment.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Shortening wire length

In yesterday’s post, we posed the question of what might happen if we were to lower or even eliminate the impedance inherent in the AC power wires feeding our home.

The answer is simple. Dramatically better sound.

Something we all want!

But, how best to eliminate or significantly lower the impedance of hundreds (often thousands) of feet of connecting power cables shared by our neighbors?

Traditionally, lowering impedance inherent in wire can be handled in two ways: shortening its length and/or increasing its thickness.

Increasing wire thickness from the standard of 14 gauge copper, which is about 0.06″ thick, to something ridiculously heavier like 0 gauge wire, which is nearly ten times the thickness (times 3 conductors), would help but wouldn’t solve it. Only thickening and shortening the wire to mere feet would get the total impedance where we would want it, to perhaps 0.01Ω or lower.

The problems with taking these steps would be one of practicality (or the lack thereof). Let’s start with thickening the wire. 3-conductor 0 gauge wire is about 1.5″ thick and weighs in at about 1.5 lbs per foot. That’s going to be a bear to install in the walls (never mind the impracticality of typing that wire into an AC receptacle). But, let’s say we managed all that copper. We still need to shorten it to mere feet. To do that we’d have to move our home next to a noisy, stinky, coal-fired power generating station.

We might get some spousal pushback.

Fortunately, there is an alternative. A power amplifier.

Let’s back up a moment.

If you want to power a pair of loudspeakers you won’t get very far connecting the output of your preamplifier to them. Preamps can’t drive speakers because their output impedance is too high.

To lower a preamplifiers output impedance you need to add energy, something a power amplifier is very good at.

Power amplifiers have high input impedance and low output impedance.

Does this sound like something that might interest us in our quest to reduce the impedance of the power line from high to low?

Methinks, maybe.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Amateur Audiophiles

One of the reasons I wrote The Audiophile’s Guide was to help fix the biggest problem in high-end audio systems. The one most of us take for granted, yet never master.

Setup.

Sure, we all know the basics: approximately where to place the loudspeakers, how to connect the kit, how to tame a lousy room.

But basics are not mastery in the same way learning how to boil water doesn’t make you a culinary expert.

With over 10,000 copies in circulation, I am happy to report that more systems sound better than ever before.

But, the Guide doesn’t work for everyone because not everyone gets the same benefits from simply reading a book.

That’s where someone like David Snyder can help. David, who refers to himself as an amateur audiophile (aren’t most of us?), has taken apart every aspect of The Audiophile’s Guide and methodically laid it out in much easier to understand language than I was able to.

He’s published this work in a 5-part series called Unlocking Great Sound and to be honest, he’s done a far better job than I.

If you’re interested, you can go here and begin with part 1.